New Scientific Scandal Shaking The Climate Alarmist Industry
As readers at this site are well aware, the field of climate “science” and alarmism is subject to an extraordinary degree of orthodoxy enforcement, where all information supporting the official narrative gets enthusiastically promoted, while all information disagreeing with the official narrative gets suppressed or attacked.
For just one recent example of the latter, see the Wall Street Journal editorial in the current weekend edition reporting on a bogus Facebook “fact check” of the Journal’s recent review of Steven Koonin’s new book “Unsettled.”
In this context, an article just out on May 6 in the journal Science is truly remarkable. The article is titled “Does ocean acidification alter fish behavior? Fraud allegations create a sea of doubt.”
It has the byline of Martin Enserink, Science’s international news editor. Science Mag has a long history of publishing every sort of climate alarmism, and of being an unreceptive forum for anything expressing any sort of skepticism, let alone alleging fraud in claims of climate alarm.
Something serious must be going on here.
To get the significance of the recent developments, it is important to understand where assertions of “ocean acidification” fit into the field of climate alarm.
The use of fossil fuels by humans generates CO2 that goes into the atmosphere. CO2 is a “greenhouse gas” and many models project that increasing levels of CO2 will warm the atmosphere in some significant amount.
Activists then assert many harmful effects from the hypothetical warming — not just hot days and heatwaves, but everything from melting ice, rising seas, droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, you name it.
All of these asserted effects arise from the initial step of atmospheric warming.
But what if the warming doesn’t happen, or turns out to be far less than the fearmongers have projected? That’s where “ocean acidification” comes in.
“Ocean acidification” is the allegedly harmful effect of rising atmospheric CO2 that does not stem initially from warming temperatures.
Instead, the idea is that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere will somewhat increase the level of CO2 dissolved in the oceans, which in turn will lower the pH of the oceans.
How much? Some projections suggest at the extreme end that average ocean pH may go down from a current 8.1 or so, all the way to maybe about 7.75 by 2100.
If you know anything about this subject, or maybe took high school chemistry, you will know that a pH of 7 is neutral, lower than 7 is acidic, and above 7 is basic.
Thus a pH of 8.1 is not acidic at all, but rather (a little) basic; a pH of 7.75 is somewhat less basic. The fact that anyone would try to apply the scary term of “ocean acidification” to this small projected shift toward neutrality already shows you that somebody is trying to manipulate the ignorant.
And besides, what’s wrong with a pH of 7.75? After all, a pH of 7 is completely neutral — even if ocean pH went all the way down to that level (and not even the worst alarmists are claiming that it will), how could that possibly be harmful to any living thing?
Into this mix then jumped a group of researchers at James Cook University. JCU is an Australian university known as a center for studying marine biology. It is located at a fairly remote place along the coast in Northeast Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef.
In about 2009, JCU researchers — led by Philip Munday and Danielle Dixson — began publishing a series of papers asserting that ocean acidification was causing a wide range of striking and detrimental effects on fish behaviors.
Among other claimed results of the research were that fish subjected to somewhat less basic water would lose their ability to smell predators and become attracted towards the scent of predators; would become hyper-active; would lose their tendency to automatically swim either left or right; and other such things.
As to the significance of their research, in a 2014 report for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Munday and Dixson warned that their work showed that projected “ocean acidification” could have “profound consequences for marine diversity” and fisheries.
If you have any bullshit radar at all, I assume that it has already been set off with loud alarms and flashing red lights. But of course, all of the Munday/Dixson papers sailed through peer review and were quickly published at the most “prestigious” journals.
Yet somehow the Munday/Dixson work was so preposterous that it eventually attracted the interest of a group of young scientists who thought that the results just could not possibly be right.
Over the period 2016 to 2019, a group of seven researchers led by Timothy Clark and Fredrik Jutfeld attempted to replicate the principal results of Munday and Dixson on fish behavior.
Clark, Jutfeld, et al., published the results of their work in January 2020 in Nature, with the title “Ocean acidification does not impair the behavior of coral reef fishes.”
The bottom line: they could not replicate the claimed effects on fish behavior at all. From the abstract of the Clark, Jutfeld, et al., article:
Coral reef fishes are predicted to be especially susceptible to end-of-century ocean acidification on the basis of several high-profile papers that have reported profound behavioral and sensory impairments—for example, complete attraction to the chemical cues of predators under conditions of ocean acidification. Here, we comprehensively and transparently show that—in contrast to previous studies—end-of-century ocean acidification levels have negligible effects on important behaviors of coral reef fishes…
The “high-profile” papers referred to are some of the Munday/Dixson works.
The dueling results have apparently created quite the schism among marine biologists, at some point leading the journal Science to put its own international editor on the job of reporting on the controversy.
The Science mag piece is fairly long but well worth a read. Among much else, there is this:
[I]n August 2020, Clark and three others in the group . . . asked three funders that together spent millions on Dixson’s and Munday’s work—the Australian Research Council (ARC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)—to investigate possible fraud in 22 papers. The request, which they shared with a Science reporter, rests on what they say is evidence of manipulation in publicly available raw data files for two papers, one published in Science, the other in Nature Climate Change, combined with remarkably large and “statistically impossible” effects from CO2 reported in many of the other papers. They also provided testimony from former members of the Dixson and Munday labs, some of whom monitored Dixson’s activities and concluded she made up data.
Science also took the step of asking multiple independent scientists not affiliated with Clark to review the allegations and comment. The result:
[M]ultiple scientists and data experts unconnected to the Clark group who reviewed the case at Science’s request flagged a host of problems in the two [Munday/Dixson] datasets, and one of them found what he says are serious irregularities in the data for additional papers co-authored by Munday.
Over at the Global Warming Policy Foundation, they publish a piece on May 7 by Peter Ridd commenting on this situation. Have you heard of Peter Ridd?
Ridd was a professor at James Cook University, and among other things head of the Physics Department and head of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at that institution.
He was known for work on the Great Barrier Reef, particularly for challenging the prevailing narrative that the GBR was in serious decline due to global warming.
In 2016, Ridd was disciplined and then fired by JCU, which cited critical comments he had made about the work of colleagues.
The comments at issue included telling Sky News that bodies like the Australian Institute of Marine Science “can no longer be trusted” and saying that many scientists examining the health of the Great Barrier Reef were “emotionally attached” and “not objective”.
Ridd sued JCU over the firing and recovered a judgment of A$1.2 million at trial. That judgment was then reversed on appeal. On February 21, Ridd’s case was accepted for review by Australia’s High Court (equivalent to our Supreme Court).
It’s now looking like Ridd’s prior remarks may turn out to be a severe understatement as to the level of scientific corruption at JCU.
And then there is the level of corruption in climate science more generally. There is plenty more to be found if researchers like Clark et al. get sent to the right places.
I have called the alterations of temperatures in the historical records kept by the U.S. government “The Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time”; yet somehow, the manipulation of that data have so far escaped any kind of thorough independent examination or audit, even during the four years of the supposedly skeptical Trump administration.
The day will come, but it may be a while.
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